Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers have increased calls, texts, emails and in-person tactics, and they continue to contact utility customers asking for immediate payment to avoid service disconnection. During National Consumer Protection Week, Feb. 28-March 6, 2021, Gulf Power is urging customers to be wary of suspicious activity and learn how to spot a scam.
“At Gulf Power, we want our customers to be able to recognize some of the common tactics used and understand how they can protect themselves from being targeted,” said Mike Spoor, vice president of Gulf Power. “National Consumer Protection Week is the perfect opportunity for customers to learn how to identify all different types of scams, including those threatening disconnection of your electric service. We want to help raise awareness on this important issue.”
- Beware of calls and emails demanding immediate payment. Customers have reported that scammers will call, usually in a very aggressive tone, requesting for payment through a credit card, pre-paid debit card, gift card or even wire transfer. Gulf Power will never ask for any form of payment over the phone or through email. Phone calls will often display Gulf Power in the Caller ID. Unfortunately, technology exists which allows a caller to falsify the number in the Caller ID field and create a voice response system that mimics the utility’s own system.
- Gulf Power will not show up to a customer’s home or business to collect a payment. If an account becomes past due and is subject to disconnection, Gulf Power will contact the customer via a prerecorded message to the primary account telephone and/or by letter requesting that the customer call Gulf Power to discuss the account. The company will never go door-to-door asking for payment.
- Gulf Power employees are easy to identify. If a Gulf Power employee has a service-related reason to visit a home or business, customers will in most cases receive notice of the visit in advance and the employee will wear a Gulf Power employee ID badge with their photo, company’s name and logo.
- Don’t make an immediate payment. Customers should never share their credit card or debit card information or purchase a prepaid card or gift card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. The company will not ask customers to pay anywhere other than an authorized payment location.
- Verify the payment request. If someone threatens immediate disconnection or shutoff of service, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email or shut the door. To verify the payment request, contact Gulf Power at 1-800-225-5797.
- Report the scam. If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email, shut the door and contact Gulf Power’s customer service. Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud, or who feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers, should contact local law enforcement authorities. The Attorney General’s office also encourages customers who receive scam calls to file a complaint – http://myfloridalegal.com/contact.nsf/contact?Open&Section=Citizen_Services.
For more information on scams, visit www.GulfPower.com/scams. You can also visit http://www.ftc.gov/ncpw to learn how to get free consumer education materials and read the latest from consumer protection experts.